By Louis Dvorkin, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist
What is it Bipolar Disorder?
BD was previously known as Manic-Depression is commonly exhibited in very extreme and sometimes very rapid shifts in moods and behaviors. Moods may range from excessively happy or high to hopeless and sad and back again within hours or days at a time. The symptoms of BD have damaged or torn apart families, marriages and work relationships. That is the bad news. What is the good news? BD can be treated with medication, psychoeducation and personal and family counseling.
What are the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
BD is often difficult to recognize. First, it tends to start as hypomania, expressed in a heightened level of energy or elation, development of unrealistic plans and impulsive behavior/reckless behaviors. Individuals with BD tend to feel “good” at the hypomanic phase so they are unlikely to seek out help. Particularly, as they tend to have little or no insight or self-awareness when in hypomanic or manic states.
Its symptoms also tend to be misdirected or masked by behavioral issues, poor school performance and difficulties at work. Furthermore, the nature of BD itself causes the affected individual to have little or no awareness that their behaviors are problematic.
Characteristics of Manic Phases
Excessive Energy, Racing Thoughts, Changing Topics, Overly Self-Confident, Rapid Speech, Euphoria, Exaggerated Optimism, Delusions of Grandeur, Irritability, Provocativeness, Aggression, Distractible, Insomnia, Poor Judgment, High Risk Behaviors (e.g., speeding, spending sprees, foolish business investments, sexual promiscuity), Feelings of Invincibility, behavioral issues, Hyperactivity.
Characteristics of Depressed Phases
Prolonged periods of sadness, anxiety, agitation, crying spells, feeling guilty, worthless, hopeless or helpless, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, fatigue, loss of energy, ambivalence, sleeping too much, early morning awakening, sudden increase/decrease in appetite, irritability, diminished attention, concentration or short-term memory, chronic pain, persistent bodily complaints, persistent thoughts of death and dying including suicide.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment
While there is no cure currently available, when treated, 70-90% of people with bipolar disorder see a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life. The first line of defense tends to be medication. Individual and family counseling are important adjunctive treatment. Participation in mental health advocacy groups can be very helpful, including the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Learn how you can raise awareness and help #SayItForward to #RemovetheBarrier from the International Bipolar Foundation, or contact The Juniper Center if you or a loved one needs help or to learn more.
Dr. Louis Dvorkin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at The Juniper Center in Park Ridge, IL.